Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy-ish Holidays

Today begins the season of rapid-fire holiday celebrations. From Halloween, we quickly move to Thanksgiving and from there to Christmas, finally wrapping up in two months with New Year's Eve. I love the holidays, and the music, and the decorations, and all of that. But it's blended with a sense of dread.

Most of my friends and family are creating memories as couples, and/or with kids. Most of the people out tonight chasing their costumed kids up and down the street are my age. Meanwhile, I sit home, alone, doling out candy. I'm not buying gifts "from Santa" or making the Thanksgiving dinner for my family.

And, really, who am I to whine about that? Because A) It's a bunch of headache and stress, as anyone with kids and/or in-laws will be quick to tell me, and B) I'm so very very very blessed to have wonderful parents and a brother to go home to for my holidays, which my friends who've lost parents, spouses, or siblings will so justifiably remind me. I truly have much to be glad for, and I am grateful. And I do love being with them, more than I can put to words. And I have it so much better and easier than so many people, in my life and in the world beyond my personal boundaries.

But, but, but. There's always the but. But. I'm so tired of doing it all alone. Being alone. Going to holiday parties alone. Handing out candy...alone. Driving four hours home...alone. Every damned week of the holiday season brings particularly acute reminders of alone. Being alone. Being alone.

My love of the holidays, today included, is hanging increasingly tenuously on memories, nostalgia, and what they once were. Every year, I wonder why the holidays don't feel as exciting or happy as they once used to. All adults experience that, I suppose, but I can't help feeling that a lot of it for me is the stagnancy, the feeling that by now it should be different. By now I should be experiencing the holidays through younger, newer eyes, and through the creation of new memories with new people rather than the rote patterns of solitude and an awkward sense of artificial joyousness glossing over an emptiness and isolation. Through the distortion of tears that can't come out till later because letting them out is a violation of the Rules of Merriment. Of Rule 1 in particular: "Just be grateful and shut up about it."

So, I'll start listening to Christmas music soon. I'll put on the glad face, and I'll sometimes mean it. I'll be happy to see my family, happy to watch It's a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story. But it will be happiness that's drug down by something more persistent and wearisome. By something that's doing nothing but begging for January...when seasonal depression hits. The blessed relief of seasonal depression, when no one expect any more of me anyway.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Let Me Call You Sunshine

Yesterday, my cousin, his wife, and their two kids made their annual trip to La Crosse to see the fall leaf colors. Unfortunately, the colors haven't been particularly vibrant this year, but we had a really nice day anyway. We went to McGregor and Marquette, Iowa, just over the river from Prairie du Chien, to shop for antiques (I only bought a cheap fake pearl necklace), stopped at an orchard just as it was closing, had dinner together, then came home. After my cousin and the kids went to bed, his wife and I stayed up till nearly 4am talking, which was fun.

It's been years since I stayed up so late, and it kind of reminds me of all the times we'd visit my cousin's family growing up. My dad and his dad were buddies (my parents met when Dad was my uncle's best man when he married my mom's sister), and no two men liked to talk better than Laverne and Dad. When visiting my parents' hometown area, we would often visit them and stay till way late before going back to Grandpa and Grandma's house to sleep for a few hours till church on Sunday morning. My brother and I loved to play with my two cousins, who had four-wheelers, video games, a pool table, and tons of other crazy fun ideas. I also enjoyed (with some horror) watching my cousins pound on each other. My brother and I only ever play fought (besides shouting at one another), so to watch an authentic fight was pretty fascinating to me.

My cousin who visited was the younger son, and I idolized him growing up. I didn't want to play with my girl cousin who was closer to my age--she was way boring in comparison, though we're really good friends now. He was crazy and cool and always so nice to me. He came to stay at our house for a few days one summer, and he graciously played house with me for awhile instead of playing Atari with my brother. How's that for a good guy?

While we were all out shopping yesterday, he reminded me of something I had completely forgotten. He asked if I remembered when my dad would call me Sunshine, particularly when I was upset. "What's the matter, Sunshine?" he would say as he picked me up to comfort me. It's funny that I had completely forgotten that, but I do remember my mom (lovingly) calling me Missy Butt, Booger Butt, and Poop Sock. Haha. I've been thinking about that ever since, and the memory of it has really been particularly powerful for some reason. I guess maybe it goes with the more general nostalgia I've been feeling lately, but it's such a warm, safe feeling to remember those moments of being taken care of, being cuddled when I needed soothing, being loved.

It's a reminder that I'm a very lucky person, even now. Dad hasn't called me Sunshine in more than 20 years, I imagine, and given that I'm an adult, it would be creepy and weird to sit on his lap or be cuddled. But I still always know that I can call home and get help when I need it. I'm loved in the same way, even though I take care of myself most of the time. I'm still someone's Sunshine.